Grace Fulton, 13, of Finksburg, Md., and Kaylin Medlin O'Neal, 14, of Charlotte, N.C., became the highest-scoring riders in the Professional Riders Organization  Junior Young Rider Training Level Scholarship Award Program on the East Coast. Hailey Patno, 15, of Jackson, Wyo., was the only West Coast junior to complete the designated competitions with a full score this year.
Junior riders entered designated events at the training level on each coast and were judged on their riding and horsemanship by PRO professional members. Their scores were tabulated and tracked on the PRO JYR TLSA Leaderboard throughout the season. PRO's goal is to award four scholarships each year—two in the east and two in the west—to riders on each coast at the top of the leaderboards. Each scholarship winner receives a week of training and board for both their horse and themselves at the facilities of Will Faudree, Marcia Kulak or Tamra Smith.
Faudree is proud to be hosting a junior. "It's been a really busy summer for me, but I really wanted to participate in the scholarship program because it is a great way for riders to inspire the next generation,” he said. Faudree will host Medlin O’Neal at his facility, Gavilan Farm, in Hoffman, N.C.
"I read about the scholarship in 2011 and wished that I was eligible to participate then," said Medlin O’Neal. "Once I started going training, I made that part of my goals—to compete for and win one of the scholarships. I'm very excited about the training week I'll have with Will Faudree. Thank you, PRO, for putting things like this and the mentorship program together for juniors,” she said.
Maryland native Grace Fulton is the PRO Junior Young Rider Training Level Scholarship Award Program Leaderboard Champion, and her enthusiasm shines through. “I was so thrilled to learn of the scholarship—something where you weren't judged on results alone, and got helpful feedback from known professionals," she said. "Leo and I had a great time and were pretty pleased with how it turned out! I think it will be a great chance to meet new people, and can't wait to get started!"
Fulton will be training with Marcia Kulak of Scotia, N.Y., who is the founder of the program.
Patno plans to train with Tamra Smith of Next Level Eventing in Temecula, Calif. next year during her spring break from school. "Receiving the PRO Junior Training Scholarship is such an amazing opportunity. It was very special because it was not just based on your performance at shows, but also turnout and horse care that goes on outside of the ring. When I got the letter that I received the scholarship I was ecstatic! Horse care and turnout are an important part of showing and owning a horse, and it is something that is often overlooked at shows. Riding is my passion, I take great pride in the way I present my horse and myself, and it feels great to be recognized!” she said.
Smith fully believes in the merits of the program. "This is such an important program. We all had special people mentor us over the years. This is a way we, as professionals, can give back to the equestrian community, and it's a great opportunity for kids to work at achieving a worthwhile goal,” she said.
Each of the young riders is asked to keep a journal of their training week and share their experience with others on the PRO blog . In addition to the scholarship award, all junior members of PRO are assigned to professional riders who volunteer to mentor juniors throughout the year. In 2012, mentors included Doug Payne, Jennie Brannigan, Cathy Wieschhoff, Kristin Bachman, Laine Ashker, Kristin Schmolze and Ashley Leith.